From Ethics to Crossword Goofs, Advocate Reflects on Anniversary

Article excerpt

This is your column.

Reader issues take priority, whether you're calling about

fairness or comic strips, credibility or tide charts.

Since this month marks my 10th anniversary as reader advocate,

it's a good time to reflect.

First, a job description. I am an internal auditor-customer

service-complaint department for the newsroom.

Those roles are commonplace in the business world, but rare in

newsrooms.

So let's clear up some misunderstandings. I am:

. . . Not an official spokesman of the paper. My opinions are

mine alone.

. . . Not able to order changes. I have some influence in the

classic news media sense of identifying problems and offering

suggestions.

. . . Not your source for delivery or advertising complaints.

They have separate departments, though I make referrals.

. . . Not required to agree with everyone. I try to find

something constructive in every call, but I owe you my best

professional judgment.

A few notable achievements

I have campaigned for more sensitivity to crime victims;

promoted ethical behavior; represented readers who felt no

ownership in the paper, such as minorities and children;

emphasized the need to reduce mistakes; educated readers about

how to gain access to the newsroom; and pushed for

better-researched all-city sports teams.

Our Reader Services operation has grown from one person to

three. I supervise Nicole McGill in Call Box and Diane Dixon in

Reader Services, two dynamic advocates for the readers.

Recommendations

As Jacksonville grows, the quality of the Times-Union should

improve, too. Here are my suggestions for a better product for

the readers:

Add more news space in the Metro section.

Create a larger, separate Business section.

Improve coverage in the fast-growing suburbs of St. Johns and

Nassau counties.

Continue improving coverage of minorities and adding minority

staffers. …